All has been silent on the blog lately, and I’m sorry about that but I just have to tell you about my adventures in South Africa! At the end of January, T and I took the trip of a lifetime to visit his homeland and see as much of it as we could. We’d been planning it for literally years, and T decided to take me there for my birthday in February. So we set off and got to see all the sights!
Warning: This is a very photo heavy post, so enter with caution, slow internet users! Also, please excuse any slightly blurry/over-exposed photos. This was taken with my rather crappy phone camera, but I did my best with what I had!
Arriving in South Africa
Our first stop was Durban, and we flew in via Dubai to stay in a beautiful suburb called Umhlanga (pronounced Oom-shlang-ah). We chose a quaint little B&B to start with, as we wanted to be fairly central to where all of T’s family live but still have a lovely location to chill out in the downtime. As it turns out, most of our festivities in the first week were taking place either in Umhlanga or nearby, so it ended up being a better choice than we thought!
We couldn’t have asked for better weather; it was in the 30s (Celsius, of course!) for the entire first week, and while the first day was a little overcast we were blessed with beautiful sunny weather the rest of the week. So sunny, in fact, that I got burned despite taking care of myself with 50 SPF suncream, and ended up with heat exhaustion. Let me tell you, heat exhaustion and sunburn are no joke! Take care of your skin!
I got to meet a lot of T’s family that I have never met before over several dinners and lunches, and they’re all a great bunch of people. I also had my first authentic braai experience, which is absolutely something I want to repeat!
After the first few days, we stayed with some friends of mine that I met through Final Fantasy XIV: Lu and Alex. They live in Durban North, and kindly offered to let us stay in the downstairs apartment at their house and we very happily accepted the offer! It was a week of games (Mario Kart, Smash Bros and, of course, Mario Party!), food and good company. The photos above are taken at the Oyster Box, a beautiful and very swanky hotel along the coast at Umhlanga. We couldn’t afford to stay there, but we did decide to go for breakfast one of the mornings and it was divine!
Lu and Alex took us sightseeing, so of course we went to check out uShaka Marine World where I was eaten by a giant megaladon mouth! While we didn’t go to the aquarium or sea park itself, we did check out the village inside which has lots of lovely shops and some street artists, where I picked up a gorgeous canvas painting of elephants for my parents. We also checked out the Dangerous Creatures exhibit, which was filled with beautiful snakes, including Black and Green Mambas and a huge reticulated python, who we were assured is so big and heavy that she requires 12 people to carry her!
It was a really exciting day, and I’m so glad we got to see so much.
Chilling out in Cape Town
After a week, we moved on to Cape Town. T and I flew out together, and the flight was short but had some really beautiful scenery. The first thing we did when we landed was meet T’s sister Zoe and her boyfriend Kelvin, who had already been in South Africa for several weeks on their own trip (they also were kind enough to pick us up from the airport when we landed earlier in the week before they took off to Cape Town a little ahead of us) and went for some lunch at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The V&A is beautiful, and we found a lovely place serving surf and turf and mocktails for an afternoon meal by the marina.
Cape Town is home to the infamous Table Mountain, a beautiful flat-topped mountain that is visible from almost anywhere in the city. We even decided to go up to the top, but chose to go via a cable car instead of doing the hike. If you ever decide to go there, I recommend booking online in advance as the queue can be very long, and if you’re an earlybird you can sometimes get a half-off deal which is really good!
Seeing the cape
South Africa had some amazing scenery, something I had been expecting but was still completely blown away by. We started our drive back to Durban from Cape Town after a few days, and saw some of the most astounding coastline I’ve ever seen in my life. T and I both agreed we’d love to come back and bike along the coast, meaning I will need to learn how to ride a motorbike and T will need to renew his license!
Shortly before the photo above was taken we saw a whale breach! I didn’t expect that, so it was really exciting to see. However, the big reason I was looking forward to the coastline was not the whales, nor the beautiful beaches or the mountains coming all the way down to the sea…it was the African penguins!
A lot of people don’t seem to realise that there are penguins in Africa. These African penguins are also known as jackass penguins (due to the sound they make), or black-footed penguins, and they’re only found along the cape. We took a trip out to Boulders Bay to see them, and sure enough the entire coastline was dotted with groups of penguins, and there was even a little beach where you could go down and swim with them! We got really up close and personal with them, so I was very pleased!
Shortly after our trip along the beautiful coastline, we turned inwards to start journeying through the Karoo desert, which was a huge change in scenery!
Adventures in the desert
We stopped at a little watering hole called Ronnie’s Sex Shop, which is surprisingly nothing to do with sex at all (unless you count the bras and undies that have been jokingly hung up inside the bar by patrons!) The story goes that Ronnie opened up a bar in the middle of the desert, and called it Ronnie’s Shop. His friends played a joke on him by painting “Sex” after the name, and it stuck. Perhaps because he got so many more visitors because of it!
What I thought was amazing was that we were driving through the middle of the Karoo Desert, the road almost empty for as far as the eye could see, and then out of nowhere we come upon this pub that had about 30 – 40 people just hanging around either inside or outdoors in the shaded beer garden.
Soon we reached our stop-off in Oudsthoorn, where we decided that it was an absolute must to go and see some of the animals in a nearby conservation park.
The highlight? Getting to meet these beautiful creatures. This was at Cango Wildlife Ranch, a park that houses many big cats and other animals they’ve obtained through various means, including taking them from zoos, rescuing injured animals that cannot survive in the wild, or taking part in international breeding programs to help preserve endangered species. They also educate people on the importance of looking after our wildlife, and part of this program includes being able to meet one of the animals living at their park.
Both T and I decided to meet one of the adult cheetahs — she’s asleep in this photo as we sadly chose to visit after lunch, but you can see she’s drooling in her sleep! — and because we’re big kids and love little animals, we went into the baby cheetah enclosure and got to meet a whole host of their little cubs. They too were mostly asleep, but some were more active and pottered around our feet. I was absolutely smitten, and both T and I decided we’d love to go back sometime to volunteer there for a few weeks.
Seeing the sights
During the rest of our trip, we got to see a lot of varying scenery, from waterfalls — of which there were many! — to the gorgeous, unspoiled sand dunes of Oyster Bay. I have never seen so many mountains in my life, and passing from beach to lush mountain ranges to desert all within a few hours of driving was incredible.
One of our last stops on our journey back to Durban was a tiny village called Hogsback, up in the mountains. Some say it inspired some of Middleearth, though how true that is I’m not sure. However, there are lots of little signs like this one talking about hobbits dotted around the place, and there’s even a school at the foot of the hill called Hobbiton!
I can honestly say that whether this place inspired Mr. Tolkien or not, I found our short one night stay here very inspiring and motivating. Sitting outside our cabin as the sun went down with the wind whistling through the trees was beautiful enough, but even better when the mist rolled in from the mountains as night fell, cloaking the entire mountainside in wispy fog. It was a mystical experience, and one I will never forget.
Getting used to Durban beach life
After a week of driving and sight-seeing, we arrived back in Durban, which I have well and truly fallen in love with. We stayed on the beach, with a view of the Indian ocean straight from our balcony. We spent much of the last few days relaxing, and met with Lu and Alex again to see Deadpool at the cinema (and then went back to the cinema the next day to see it again…as well as finally seeing The Force Awakens!) in Gateway.
Can I just take a moment to also add that Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga is my new true love? It’s an amazing shopping centre, but it is so much more than that, with tons of restaurants serving all kinds of food, several cinemas, bowling, an arcade (which I of course spent far too long indulging in) and everything you could possibly need all under one roof! I miss it immensely.
On our last morning we met my friends again for one final goodbye over brunch, and headed back to the airport feeling a bit sullen. It was a wonderful holiday, and almost a full month long, so we’d both adjusted to the weather and the laid-back attitude of Durban. I definitely want to go back, and we’re already discussing where we’d visit next time now that we’ve had a taste of so many different places!
So now that you know my dream holiday was in South Africa, where would yours be?